Latin America set to outpace everywhere else in gains for women in the workplace

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, right, talks with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet. File 2014. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

While global workplace gender diversity is expected to remain relatively flat for the next decade, new research shows Latin America making rapid progress. With a projected 49 percent of women in professional and managerial roles, a new study from workplace consulting firm Mercer has predicted that Latin America will become the world’s leader in workplace gender diversity by 2025.

Mercer’s predictions were based on a survey conducted in 42 countries from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the Americas. The firm surveyed 583 organizations, which collectively employ around 3.2 million people.

According to Fortune, the report credits Latin America’s expected progress to a greater than average middle management engagement in diversity and inclusion efforts, a widespread belief that supporting women’s health is important for attracting and retaining women, and an unusually high portion of women in profit and loss roles (48 percent, compared to the global average of 28 percent).

Organizations in Latin America are the most aggressive in hiring women at entry levels, according to Mercer’s report, but female hires begin to lag behind male hires above the managerial level. Regardless, Latinas are more likely than men to be promoted from every level, twice as likely to be promoted from the senior manager level, and are projected to make up 44 percent of executives (a leap from today’s 17 percent) by 2025.

Meanwhile, world averages are expected to remain mostly stagnant. According to the study, women make up a third of managers globally, and 20 percent of executives. These statistics show some progress compared with the previous year’s version of the same study, according to Fortune, but the improvements were only short-term advances from temporary fixes like increasing hiring at the top.

“The traditional methods of advancing women aren’t moving the needle, and underrepresentation of women around the world has become an economic and social travesty,” said Pat Milligan, Mercer’s global leader of When Women Thrive, in a statement accompanying the report. “While leaders have been focusing on women at the top, they’re largely ignoring the female talent pipelines so critical to maintaining progress.

“This is a call-to-action – every organization has a choice to stay with the status quo or drive their growth, communities and economies through the power of women.”

When Women Thrive was established in 2014, according to Latin Post, with a purpose to help other organizations grow through active participation of the women’s work force.

According to Mercer’s report, how well organizations make use of female talent can indicate how well they attract, develop and retain women. Unsurprisingly, these organizations also have a higher representation of women in senior positions in the long-term.

But many organizations aren’t yet utilizing female talent to their advantage in part because they’re not able to retain them. Mercer’s report found that although women are 1.5 times more likely than men to be hired at the executive level, they are also leaving organizations from the highest ranks at 1.3 times the rate of men.

At the current rate of progress, women will make up only 40 percent of professional and managerial workers worldwide by 2025.

“While the diversity efforts of the past several decades have resulted in some improvements in women’s participation rates and career trajectories, our research shows that we’re still decades away from true gender equality – if we keep doing what we’re doing,” Milligan said in the statement. “It’s time to act differently to realize the benefit of their full participation and address the unique needs of female employees.”

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About Author

Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Seattle-based journalist covering news, health and human rights in Latin America and worldwide. As a second-generation immigrant from Greece, Lisa’s objective is to encourage awareness of global issues and cultures through her stories. She has a B.A. in psychology and Spanish from Lawrence University in her home state of Wisconsin. You can contact her at lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org.